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Architecture and Engineering Students invited to apply for Indigenous Education Fund

The first ḴEL,ḴELOŦEN ȻE S, ISTEW̱ award of $5,000 will be presented to one successful applicant this November for the 2021/2022 academic year.

With a goal of healing, encouraging and supporting Indigenous people pursuing post-secondary studies in engineering or architecture, several companies in these industries have established an education fund for Indigenous students residing in British Columbia. The first ḴEL,ḴELOŦEN ȻE S, ISTEW̱ award of $5000 will be presented to one successful applicant this November for the 2021/2022 academic year.

The genesis of the ḴEL,ḴELOŦEN ȻE S,ISTEW̱ education fund stems from a group of consulting firms, engineers and architects that came together to complete a proposal for a large Federal project in the Sidney/Central Saanich area of British Columbia. As part of this project’s requirements, the team prepared a comprehensive plan to include the communities of W̱SÁNEĆ Nation and Malahat Nation. The development of the proposal sparked deeper conversations and commitments from the firms to move forward on instigating change—within these Indigenous communities and others like them—across the province.

Although the team was not awarded the project, its members emerged united in a greater and more selfless cause: improving the educational opportunities for Indigenous technical professionals. Since the summer of 2020, they have remained committed to creating an education fund. They have aligned as founding partners to form a steering committee for the fund, which includes the Victoria Native Friendship CentreGwaii Engineering, the AME Consulting Group, Diamond Schmitt architectsNumber TEN Architectural GroupAES Engineering and RJC Engineers. Together, they have established an endowment to launch ḴEL,ḴELOŦEN ȻE S,ISTEW̱. The group’s first award of $5,000 will be presented to a deserving Indigenous student this coming school year, and for years to come.

The naming of the post-secondary education fund acknowledges the territories of Lekungen, W̱SÁNEĆ and Malahat Peoples. The lands of these Coast Salish Peoples brought the group together to pursue this initiative as a team. Without the openness and collaboration of the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council and Malahat Nation, the group would not have been able to lay the foundation that allowed them to develop the fund. To honour the local Nations the team worked with the SENĆOŦEN Language-Revitalization Group to name the award and begin in a good way. What emerged through conversation was this phrase: ḴEL,ḴELOŦEN ȻE S,ISTEW̱. The English translation is “a dream for what becomes of you.”

According to Nadia S’ahn N’ahn Guu’as Salmaniw of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre “This initiative will bring more Indigenous voices into architecture and building design, imbuing these industries with Indigenous values, perspectives and ways of knowing, being and doing.”

AME Consulting Group and Gwaii Engineering contributed the initial funding for the endowment, solidifying this initiative and bringing together a range of cross-country partners to support the fund’s inaugural launch. The fund’s other founding contributors include: Toronto and Vancouver-based architects, Diamond Schmitt, the Victoria offices of Number TEN Architectural Group, AES Engineering and RJC Engineers. Victoria Native Friendship Centre will provide vital leadership and guidance to this group. These collective contributions to the endowment fund enable financial sustainability in perpetuity and ensure that financial support will be available to future Indigenous engineering and architecture students, no matter what.

“There are very few Indigenous professionals working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Many engineering and architecture firms work with Indigenous communities, but few have Indigenous professionals working within their organizations. Our partners recognize this and want to help Indigenous people pursue careers in our industry,” said Kear Porttris, Committee Chair and Métis engineering graduate.

Students are invited to apply for the fund beginning on June 21, 2021, National Indigenous Peoples Day. Eligible students must be working toward a career in engineering or architecture and be enrolled in post-secondary studies for the 2021-2022 academic year. The deadline for expressions of interest is September 30, 2021. Fund recipients will be announced on November 15, 2021. For more information on eligibility requirements, please visit: www.IndigenousAEaward.ca

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